INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Radio La Luna and Its Role in the Ecuadorian

Published: Thu 21 Apr 2005 04:40 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 000875
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/AND, WHA/PD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV EC
SUBJECT: RADIO LA LUNA AND ITS ROLE IN THE ECUADORIAN
CRISIS
1. Summary. Quito's Radio La Luna has become a focal point
of anti-government sentiment and action during the last
several weeks, successfully serving as a vehicle for anti-
institutional sentiment from all segments of the political
spectrum and all classes of Ecuadorian society. Although
Radio Luna is historically leftist, anti-U.S., and not above
engaging in blatant disinformation campaigns, it would be a
mistake to ascribe its recent popularity and leadership role
exclusively to leftist or foreign elements. The hostility
of the Gutirrez administration toward the station only
served to increase its importance and popularity. End
Summary.
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What is Radio La Luna
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2. Radio La Luna is a small, independent radio station that
transmits solely in Quito. It provides a mixture of news,
opinion, and culture, including music. Since 1995, it has
operated under the direction of Paco Velasco, a self-defined
independent. In recent years, Velasco and La Luna have
opposed all governments. Until recent events, La Luna
captured an estimated two percent of the Quito listeners.
Current estimates are that it now listened to regularly by
over 20 percent of the market.
3. Ideologically, La Luna is decidedly leftist and
populist. Run by a small staff, it has a number of
volunteers. It has taken a firmly anti-U.S. position,
opposing the Manta FOL, and Ecuadorian negotiations for a
free trade agreement. La Luna has also strongly criticized
what it perceived as U.S. support for the Gutirrez
administration. It has burnished its populist credentials
by speaking out against institutional corruption.
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La Luna's Newfound Popularity
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4. On April 13, Quito mayor Paco Moncayo led a call for a
provincial wide strike and marches against the government,
which was met with a lukewarm response. The evening of
April 13, La Luna began a discussion and call-in programs to
consider next steps, which resulted in a call for a
demonstration in the central Los Shyris area of Quito. Two
hours later over 5,000 people had gathered, alerted about
the demonstration by La Luna and cellular calls and text
messaging. This was the beginning of the "cacerolazo" or
pot-banging demonstrations to express dissatisfaction with
the political situation. That and horn-honking have since
become ubiquitous throughout Quito representing a
spontaneous rejection of the status quo. Radio La Luna has
remained on air 24 hours a day as its talk shows continue.
5. Numerous mainstream media have rallied to support Paco
Velasco. A conservative Embassy journalistic contact
describes Velasco as "leftist, but a good person who through
his station tries to provide space for democratic and
cultural expression". Velasco has also appeared on national
television, where he describes his goals as ending
corruption and establishing democratic and representative
government in Ecuador.
6. During the State of Emergency declared by Gutirrez on
April 16 La Luna lost telephone service. The station
continued its call-in programming using cellular phones and
blamed the government for cutting the lines and preventing
their repair. The station has also lost power on occasion,
which they also blame on government interference. President
Gutierrez' brother, a congressman, has publicly threatened
to sue La Luna for defaming the government. The Embassy
cautioned the GOE against any provocative action against La
Luna, including shutting it down.
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Comment
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7. Although Radio La Luna should not be viewed as having
created the current unstable political situation in Ecuador,
its leftist, populist, often inaccurate reporting, and
disinformation, does add fuel to an already inflammatory
situation. It is largely perceived, however, as a
legitimate vehicle for channeling what many Quiteos across
a broad political and class spectrum consider legitimate
discontent. Those who condemned it in the past as
presenting radical claptrap are now regular listeners and
have followed its call to demonstrate. It will continue to
influence unfolding events.
Kenney
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